Former Syracuse basketball star Dwayne "Pearl" Washington passes away

Emotional Jim Boeheim remembers his one-of-a-kind former player.

Syracuse basketball legend Dwayne "Pearl" Washington passed away Wednesday after being diagnosed with a brain tumor last summer. Washington was 52 years old. 

A Brooklyn native, Washington brought unprecedented excitement to the Carrier Dome with his flashy yet humble play. He led the Orange in steals and assists in each of his three years (1983-1986) at Syracuse, and in his junior year he averaged a team-high 17.3 points per game. Washington left SU as the all-time assists leader and is now third on that list.

Head coach Jim Boeheim recruited Washington after seeing him play as a sophomore in high school. When he donned the Orange jersey a few years later, he made an immediate impact on the court, the dome, and the people around him.

"My sons and I stay up to watch 'til 10:30 to watch Steph Curry play," Boeheim said. "People came to see Pearl play the same way. He was exciting, unique. There's only one guy like him."

Attendance at basketball games rose from 20,000 per game his freshman year to 26,000 by his last.

One of his more memorable moments was his half-court buzzer-beater as a freshman to give Syracuse a victory, 76-73, over No. 16 Boston College at a time when the Orange were unranked. That victory vaulted Syracuse into the national top 20, and they wouldn't fall below that rank for the rest of his career.

Washington was picked 13th by the New Jersey Nets in the 1986 NBA Draft. He would go on to play just three seasons in the pros, but his legacy was already made in Syracuse.

Throughout this past season, in honor of Washington, Syracuse players wore shirts with "Pearl" written in script.

"It was a great thing for our players to do, and I don't think anyone told them to do it, I think they just wanted to," Boeheim said. "And I think that meant a whole lot."

Boeheim said the last time he spoke to Washington was just before the team made the Final Four.

"He could barely respond, but he was excited," Boeheim said.

Like he made so many around the country in his heyday, it's good that in Washington's last season watching the Orange, they could make him excited.



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